Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh

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'Will Penalise States, Not Rural Job Scheme Workers If...': Union Minister

New Delhi:

Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh Tuesday slammed the Congress for its criticism of making Aadhaar mandatory for payments under MGNREGA, and said “we will penalise states not workers” if they are not yet linked with the Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS).

A day after the ABPS was made mandatory for the rural employment guarantee scheme, Mr Singh said several deadlines were given for linking.

He also dismissed former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s allegations that the union government is “weaponising technology”, especially the Aadhaar against the poor.

The ABPS has been made mandatory to ensure transparency, the minister said.

According to data provided by the Rural Development Ministry, as on January 2 there are around 14.32 crore active workers under the MGNREGS of whom 14.08 crore (98.31 per cent) have been Aadhaar-seeded.

Also, 12.54 crore workers (87.54 per cent of the total) have completed other steps and are currently eligible for Aadhaar-Based Payment System.

Asked about the way ahead for those workers under MGNREGA who have still not been linked to ABPS, Mr Singh said, “We will talk to states. If they raise concerns we will see what can be the way forward.”

“We have extended the deadline multiple times over the last one year, now we will talk to states, what is the issue, how will they resolve it… We will penalise states, not the workers,” the minister said.

The minister said the “road is not closed” for workers yet unlinked. “No one can be stopped from getting work, but we need to bring transparency.” Asked about the modalities to cover those who are not yet linked, he said it will be decided after holding discussions with state governments. District collectors or district magistrates will have the right to take a decision.

The Rural Development Ministry had said on Monday if certain gram panchayats have “technical issues”, the government may consider them for an exemption for mandatory payments through ABPS.

“This is not Rajiv Gandhi’s government that 15 paisa from a rupee will reach people. The Narendra Modi government is focused on transparency,” Mr Singh said, rejecting Jairam Ramesh’s criticism.

“Jairam Ramesh has also been Minister in this department. MGNREGA money used to go to account, and it would change several hands before reaching the beneficiaries… There are benefits of Aadhaar-linking. Money is going into the accounts of workers. They are spreading misinformation because they want the loot to continue,” he said.

The minister said between 2014-15 and 2023-24, 2,688 mandays of work were generated under MGNREGA, which was 1,660 between 2006-07 and 2013-14 under the Manmohan Singh government.

The minister added that the union government under PM Narendra Modi has released Rs 6,74,790 crore for the scheme since 2014-15, while under the Congress reign, Rs, 2,13,220 crore was released by the Center between 2006-07 to 2013-14.

Mr Singh said while as per the earlier system, MGNREGA beneficiaries could receive payment through mixed route (National Automated Clearing House or APBS), it was brought to the notice of the Centre that in many cases beneficiaries have made repeated changes in the bank account number and many wage payment transactions were being rejected due to account number being old.

He said ABPS was found to be the best solution for this. Asked about the large number of deletions of job cards, the minister said, “There were scams, so cards were deleted… Modi ji does not support scams.” According to data presented by the Rural Development Ministry in Lok Sabha, over 2.18 crore job cards — affecting more than 5.48 crore workers — were deleted in 2022-23, a jump of 267 per cent compared to 2021-22.

More than 67.57 lakh job cards were deleted in 2023-24.

A job card is issued to a family under MGNREGA, and can have more than one workers. The minister also said voter cards will also be linked with Aadhaar in coming days. “Would the opposition tell people not to vote if voter id cards are linked with Aadhaar?” he asked.

Mr Singh also denied claimed about workers being left behind. “Who is being left behind? We have linked almost 99 percent of people with Aadhaar. The one percent that is left will also be done by states. We will not let the workers lose”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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